Congress ends war for CJI's impeachment, will drop matter legally
The Congress has dropped its plans to legally pursue the impeachment motion against Chief Justice (CJI) Dipak Misra, with two of its MPs withdrawing their petition in the SC. Pratap Singh Bajwa and Amee Yajnik had earlier moved court challenging Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu's rejection of their motion. But now the leadership feels there's no point without the requisite numbers in the house.
Two months ago, Justices Jasti Chelameswar, Ranjan Gogoi, Kurian Joseph and Madan Lokur called a press conference and alleged the SC's freedom and integrity have been thrown into uncertainty. Among other allegations, they accused Misra of abusing his power to assign important cases to select judges. The Justice Loya death case was a key concern: the judges felt it wasn't being fairly heard.
After much discussion, Congress formally started collecting signatures for a motion for Misra's removal in March based on the judges' allegations. The motion accuses Misra of not acting on the complaints of the four judges, conspiring in the illegal licensing of a private medical college, acquiring land illegally when he was a lawyer, and damaging the credibility of the SC's institutional autonomy, among others.
Congress was backed by six parties in the motion. However, Naidu noted there is no concrete verifiable information indicating 'mibehavior' of the CJI. MPs themselves weren't sure of the charges, he observed, citing phrases like 'may have been', 'likely' and 'appears to be' in the motion. The allegations could seriously undermine the judiciary's independence; moreover, MPs disregarded convention by going to press, Naidu said.
Earlier this week, Bajwa and Yagnik challenged Naidu's rejection of their motion in the SC. They argued that Naidu is legally bound to set up an enquiry committee once such a motion is submitted. "None of the reasons given (in rejecting it)...carry any weight or are legally tenable." After some hesitation, the SC admitted it for hearing, then dismissed the petition.
Good and wise decision of congress party not to pursue impeachment issue with cong MPs in SC any further.— Abhishek Singhvi (@DrAMSinghvi) May 11, 2018
Though a section within Congress feels the motion would serve as a deterrent, another led by Abhishek Manu Singhvi thinks it would portray them as anti-judiciary and would anyway wield little. When the SC rejected the petition, Singhvi urged Congress to make an "honorable exit." Former law minister Salman Khurshid also maintained that "impeachment is too serious a matter to be played with frivolously."
Talking about the decision, Vivek Tankha, the chief of Congress' legal department, said, "If withdrawal of the petition leads to greater cohesion and faith in the independence and integrity of our judiciary, it would gladden any sane heart."